30 everyday plastic reduction tips

Plastic is the ultimate sell of the convenience life style, isn’t it? Just cling it, pop it in the freezer bag, pop it in the bin bag, the zip lock, the tupperware. Just pick up the takeaway coffee… ARGH! It’s everywhere and this has been my biggest challenge on the road to conscious living. Do not ever feel, as with anything we’ve talked about food wise, that all the change has to be immediate. I wanted to share an extract of 30 of the 120 solutions I share in my GO LOW TOX e course with you (next round is October), because I believe we can all start somewhere and these ideas really help you get going.

I’d say it was a 6 month journey to finally ditching single use plastic bags and bottles once I was clear on the goal a few years back. It still then took me that long to break the habit and involved in the end me doing things like carrying groceries home in a gym towel, an overflowing tiny handbag or a jumper, as well as getting super thirsty a couple of times to remember: Bring the darn bottle next time. Simple.

Why should we attempt to reduce our purchase of plastic items moving forward? This film will provide you with the passion to make the changes we need to make and I highly recommend you look up BAG IT: The Movie to watch as a family. 

Plastic helps us stand by two pillars of the low tox life: Shape your health. Shape the world. Dr David Suzuki estimates that the average adult has 1 kilo of plastic swimming around their bodies. 1 KILO (Nearly 2 pounds!)  Say, WHAT? True story. It’s time to do something and get good at using less of the stuff.

Plastic is very costly to recycle and damaging to the environment – especially wildlife and ocean life. The most important message on plastic is to reduce where possible and stay away from the BPA / BPS / PVC varieties. Life is at best 90/10 as a conscious living person, especially if you’re in the city or a town, because you simply cannot control everything and everyone else’s choices. So, while I say a definite yes on ditching single use drink bottles, shopping bags and smoothie cups (I take my jar to About Life if I’m craving a smoothie and they fill that), BPA, PVC… If you have to get a plastic lunch box here, or your favourite eco cleaning product or make up is in plastic, then relax. You might never eliminate plastic altogether, but every piece of plastic counts.

There is no 100% perfection and things just aren’t black and white nor should we insist they be. That is why when I first started my blog, thinking of what ‘identifying terms’ resonated with me, “LOW” tox was what I chose, when I realised that NO tox was both impossible as well as the fact that it would mean people might always have a sense that they weren’t doing enough. I know I’ve felt like that, and no one needs to feel like that when what we’re doing – even one little thing – is awesome. I’m not going to refuse an IV in a hospital, nor feel remotely guilty about needing it should the occasion arise, touch wood. It’s not about perfection and being 100% plastic free – it’s about the things that we can influence and choose daily. 

You. Are. Doing. Enough.

There are enough people judging everyone out there in today’s world – let’s not bring that into a space that is so, so positive and impactful on so many levels.

So as we focus on ditching plastics from the kitchen to some degree, again the focus is to reduce over time and to start becoming conscious when choosing anything new. The one thing to try and reduce the MOST, is single use plastics, i.e, a packet snack or drink packaged in plastic or single use bags. It’s crazy that something goes through so much production from its oil rig beginnings, to make something that will be used once for 10 minutes and then is often times not even possible to recycle.

I’ve done a few categories of plastic saving ideas. Enjoy, make a list of your top 3 goals for ditching plastics this month, and voila. Make another 3 next month. 

A few things about plastic to help you get motivated to get ditching

  • In 2002 alone, 5 trillion plastic bags were produced. They never fully degrade, they simply break down into micro plastics affecting wildlife and human life as we ingest without knowing.
  • BPA free plastics may be as bad for you, or even worse for you, than those containing BPA. That’s because alternatives to BPA, like BPF might be even more harmful. There is more and more evidence coming to light on this every day.
  • Some of the chemicals in plastic are obesogenic – Causing you to put on weight! So by ditching the weirdo packet of fakeness that is a processed chocolate bar, you’re ditching that AND the plastic it’s wrapped in – Double farewell for a better YOU and planet. 
  • Roughly 50% of the world’s plastic production is used ONCE and then thrown away.
  • The amount of plastic produced in the past 10 years is equal to the amount produced in the entire 20th Century since plastic came into production in the late 1940s.
  • Throughout the world, around one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed every year by plastics, either entangled and strangled or choked and starved. (source: marine conservation.org)

There are so many more horrifying stats on plastic’s take over of the world, but I’d prefer to switch into motivation time and ideas now to get us changing that big picture! If you want to follow plastic reduction inspiration on Facebook I recommend:

My Plastic Free Life

Plastic Free July (A challenge we also run on my page to support each other in ditching more plastic)

Take3 for the Sea, my environmentalist friend Tim Silverwoodhttp://www.take3.org/

Two Hands Project

Do you want to know something cool? If each person here was using even just 1 plastic bag a week and stopped, we would save over half a million plastic bags from being in circulation in just one year. Isn’t that awesome?

At the shops

Stop using individual plastic bags for produce and plastic bags for carting your shopping. There is absolutely no need for 3 lemons to go into a single use plastic bag that then get packed into a single use plastic bag. None. My tip with reusable shopping bags? When you unpack the shopping, place them IMMEDIATELY BACK IN FRONT OF YOUR FRONT DOOR so that they go down to the car with you without forgetting them. This will help anyone who’s found it hard, to turn a corner, finally. Of all the low tox changes I made, I think this habit was the hardest – the remembering of the reusable bags so I never had to say yes to a plastic bag. The other corner I turned was suddenly forbidding myself from saying yes to a bag. At first, that meant wrapping shopping in my gym towel, or 6 avocados in my hand bag (I like avocados and I’m pretty sure people thought I was a shoplifter on the way home!) Whatever I wanted had to fit in my hands or hand bag, or I’d have to leave it, because I was not allowed a plastic bag full stop! I was remembering those reusable bags pretty easily after a week or two of that!

Want a GORGEOUS organic cotton shopping bag?

We now have one! Double sided with the inspiring Real Food Manifesto so you can spread the word on real food awesomeness while you walk! With the highest certification from the textiles industry – GOTS certification – everyone is paid fairly, no harsh dyes, great working conditions, no pesticides on the farms or farmers… It’s shopping bag utopia! GRAB 1 or 10 HERE

organic cotton bagshoping-cart-2

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Stop buying nuts, seeds and other dried goods at the supermarket

…or most health stores and buy instead from a bulk bin place or a co-op if you can join one in your area. The enormity of plastic that can’t be recycled that is saved in switching to bulk bin shopping is amazing. Truly. You will also save so much money this way. In Australia you can go to Source Wholefoods or Green scoop bulk down in Melbourne, or Naked or Alfafa House in Sydney – which ever is near you in your capital city that I’ve not named – feel free to share! In the US there is the behemoth Wholefoods, and smaller stores like Life Thyme, Mother’s Nature and Lassens dotted about the place. In the UK there’s naturally good foods and perhaps you could start a co-op with your friends, as the quantities are 2.5kg or more? Big savings to be made on organic dry goods this way.

bulk store

If you’re a supermarket shopper they’re even starting to put these in there… Bring your own brown paper bags or go steal some from the mushrooms in produce section, to come back and use and avoid their plastic ones!

Stop buying ‘halves’ of fruit and veg.

Half a melon, pumpkin, cauliflower, cabbage or paw paw means plastic wrap. Buy whole and get a little recipe inspiration to ensure you use it all up over the week. A whole cauliflower could be half roasted with turmeric and olive oil and then served with pomegranate and goat’s curd… the other half could be blitzed into a puree with coconut milk and sea salt or made into a soup. Different textures and flavours = not getting bored!

Get re-usable produce bags for delicates (or make!)

I love these ones from 4MyEarth, a beautiful local one-woman-show business run by Bec Hurst.

4myearth

Ask for a box from the store room if you’ve forgotten your bag.

Ditch the receipts. Receipts covered in thermal coatings (that plasticky feeling receipt) are covered in BPA in a much more concentrated dose that from food packaging – Say ‘no thanks’ unless you really need that receipt.

Stop buying convenient ‘squeeze top’ products like tomato sauce, honey or mayo. Choose a glass jar. You CAN grab a teaspoon and grab what you need. You DON’T need a squeeze bottle. THEY told you you did. Mute the ads and save the planet. Ha! A catch phrase is born. 

At the cafe or while travelling

Get a cool JOCO take away glass takeaway coffee cup, or even bring your jars or mugs down for coffees, smoothies or juices to the cafe – They’re cool with it, I promise – No matter how ‘recyclable / degradable’ they tell you a coffee cup or smoothie cup is from a cafe, if it goes into a regular bin, it ends up immortalised in landfill. No good. When I went to New York and Europe in July, I saved 47 single use plastic cups by bringing my mug from home. Crazy, hey? 

joco-glass-coffee-cup-pink

The LIFE BASICS glass ones are lovely, too!

Say NO to straws! And if you must, why not BYO a cool stainless or BAMBOO ones?

In the kitchen

Stop using cheap ice cube trays that break and split every couple of years after all the bending you have to do to get the cubes out. Invest in a couple of stainless steel ones. You will not regret it, these things are indestructible and totally old school! 

JARS. JARS. JARS. Who’s already a pro jar person? I have them everywhere and use for everything! If you’re freezing leftovers in jars to avoid plastic, be sure to leave a comfortable inch at the top so you don’t break the jar when the liquid expands while freezing. 

Ditch the plastic wrap. 4MyEarth again has one of my favourite products, the bowl covers. All different shapes and sizes you can use as needed and for whichever bowl size is appropriate.

4myearth-food-cover-medium-sparrow

Or you can get a groovy silicone one these days too!

Wax and wax coated wraps and “I still want to microwave” challenges

I love my wax wraps to replace cling film, too. (Cling film AKA hormone disruptive, environment destroyer wrap. Sometimes to change we have to sit with the truth and it’s harsh but it helps us MOVE ON, don’t you think?)

And if you still use a microwave and aren’t ready to let go there, that’s fine – Just reheat things in bowls rather than on plates, so that you can pop a plate on top of the bowl to microwave, instead of glad wrap – I cringe at all the wilted hot glad wrap that touched my food as I grew up, nuking things in the microwave – but as I always say, it’s not what you DID that matters, it’s much better to get excited about what you’re going to DO from now on that’s positive.

Ditch the zip lock bags. Start seeing how much you can put into jars, stainless containers, glass bottom containers or simply wrap in sandwich wrap bags / wax coated paper sheets. The simple act of NOT buying that next lot of them, will see your brain creating the new ways to store things. The TV told you that ziplock bags were convenient. Then your habit told you they were. The price of that convenience is massive for your health and the planet’s health and you CAN change this. Tough love is sometimes the answer so that our brains are forced to find a new way to do things. 

Storing Meat and fish in the freezer

Meat is best ‘dealt with’ in some way to get it closer to being how you’re going to end up using it. Let me explain: It’s hard to freeze 2 kg of mince in the freezer as is if you’ve just received a delivery. Best is to prepare it into the ways you’re going to use it first and THEN freeze. So, if you’ve got meatballs, burger patties and bolognese on the cards, make your meat ball mix (tried my sticky tamari meatballs?), your patty mix and then cook up a bolognese, and then store all of those things, ready to cook in your pyrexes, instead of in plastic bags from the butcher. You will thank me for this tip when you have abundant meals ready to go, instead of ‘mince to defrost’ and that mountainous feeling sometimes of “Oh but there’s so much to do to just getting dinner on the table”.

Next step, is to remember to bring big containers to the butcher and avoid the plastic bag the meat would go in all together!

For bigger cuts like roasts and shoulders, if you have to freeze them, you can remove from the plastic, wrap in parchment and then over the top of that in foil or just tie a couple of elastics or string around them. You can then wash the parchment and reuse the whole lot for another large piece again and again. 

meat wrapping

meat wrapped and dated

For fish, I use pyrex. Fishy smells can come out if you only wrap fish in parchment and foil, so if you’re worried, then I would use a closable pyrex style of container.

To avoid freezer burn, just press parchment down on the surface of what you’re freezing and then freeze. You can wash parchment and re-use! This If You Care parchment paper is the best low tox one. 

Get even more obsessed with jars

… Assuming you might be a little obsessed already. Milk bottles, gift jars for making scrubs as Christmas presses for friends, keep back ones from your tomato paste, honey, rice malt syrup.

Plastic free food prep and storage

Use those jars for

  • Chopped onion. Chop double or triple and jar the leftovers up to a week to use another day. Keep the lid on as onions soak up environmental bacteria.
  • Stock – A lot of people are paranoid about freezing in jars. As long as you leave a good inch off the top to freeze them, when the liquid expands a little, you won’t get cracks or explosions. No one has on my watch so far when we corrected how full people were filling their jars to.
  • Single serve portions of stews, sours and curries. Perfect for defrosting on one of those days when preparing lunch isn’t an option. defrost overnight in the fridge and pop on the stove in a saucepan to be ready in 5 minutes!
  • Crudité sticks. Chop a couple of days at a time for snacks with dips and jar the ones for the next day.
  • Leftover animal fats from cooking – Let’s say you’ve roasted a chicken, pork belly, side of beef or anything that has juice / fat run off. Do not wash this down the drain. HUGE saving to be made on stretching your organic / pasture raised meats further by using those fats and pan juices to form the base for the next day’s soup or stew or curry.
  • Homemade dips, cultured veggies, pesto, home made ketchup or BBQ sauce… you name it, those jars are going to be your best ally. Show your partner this list and tell them to back off about the ‘too many jars’ comments (hmmm, is that just me?
  • Fresh herbs don’t need plastic wrap or tupperware ‘high tech storage systems’ to stay crisp. Wrap them super tightly in a damp tea towel and refrigerate. Basil / coriander 5-6 days, mint and parsley 2 weeks +++. I promise you!
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  • Keep a damp tea towel at the bottom of your fruit and veg crisper drawer and clean it and replace it each week. This means you avoid wasting food and catching it for a ‘throw the ends in’ soup with stock, herbs and cream / coconut cream (STRETCH THAT BUDGET PEOPLE AND LOWER WASTE – WINNING ALL ROUND!)
  • For leftovers, just put a simple plate on top of a bowl – remember that old trick?
  • Bring parchment paper, a couple of big pyrex type tubs with lids, and take to places like the butcher, fish shop or deli, to have things wrapped or packed without new plastic being needed.

The important thing, no matter how slowly you do it, is to do it at all. Here’s a little inspiration for us.

difficult changes

So this John Porter fellow seems to think we can do this. I tend to agree. Be gentle on yourself. Don’t freak out. Change starts somewhere. How about here?

Your journey. Your way. What are you going to change today?

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